Study Indicates Many ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Critics May Be Russian Trolls

A new paper by University of Southern California student Morten Bay indicates that much of the critical comments about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, came from Russian trolls via Twitter.

According to his study, published on Research Gate, the negative comments about the latest installment of the Star Wars films may well have been a political move on the part of both Russia and the alt-right in the United States. The study found that approximately 21.9% of all tweets about the movie were negative, but around 50.9% of those tweets were “likely politically motivated or not even human.”

Bay titled his paper Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, which looked closely at the online response of fans to the film. He found that there is “evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” which is likely aimed at “adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society.”

He found that the criticism of the film can be divided into three different categories: “Those with a political agenda, trolls, and what Bay calls ‘real fantagonists,’ which he defines as genuine Star Wars fans disappointed in the movie,” per Hollywood Reporter.

After the paper was released, director Rian Johnson, who was the object of much of the criticism, tweeted his agreement with Bay’s findings.

According to Bay, many of the negative tweets also appear to have been sent out by Russian trolls, something that Bay has not merely guessed at. Mashable reports that this figure is based off a list of 2,752 accounts that Twitter has identified as being “linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, its so-called ‘troll farm.'” Approximately 16 of the 1,000 accounts repeatedly tweeting at and criticizing Johnson shortly after the release of the film are identifiable as Russian trolls with extremely polarizing views on the movie.

Bay believes that the sudden criticism of the franchise “says more about the fans than it does Disney or Lucasfilm’s treatment of it.”

“[S]ince the political and ethical positions presented in the new films are consistent with older films, it is more likely that the polarization of the Trump era has politicized the fans. The divisive political discourse of the study period and the months leading up to it, has likely primed these fans with a particular type of political messaging that is in direct conflict with the values presented in The Last Jedi.”

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